Theo Lippman Jr.

September 23, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr. TTC

This is the 52nd presidential election In the 23rd in 1876, 16 years of Republican rule appeared at an end. The Grant scandals and an economic recession were good targets for a conservative Democratic reformer, Gov. Samuel J. Tilden of New York.

Republicans nominated Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, the honest, sound-money conservative governor of Ohio. Tilden beat him in the popular vote 51-48 percent. He led in the electoral vote count 184-163, with 185 votes needed for election. Neither man's total included votes from Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida, where both parties charged vote fraud. All three states plus Oregon, where one elector was disqualified, sent double sets of vote returns to Congress to be counted.

Congress set up an Electoral Commission to resolve the disputes. In every case the commission voted 8-7, along party lines, for Republican electors. Hayes won 185-184.

This could have resulted in a political crisis -- there was even talk of a renewed Civil War -- but Hayes made a secret pledge to withdraw federal troops from the South and end Reconstruction, and so Southern Democrats endorsed his victory.

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